Top 10 – Tools on the Go

For those at home following along on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you’ll know that I was on set two weekends ago working on my first “official” gig as a production designer. I say official in quotes as I’ve worked on a lot of films in the last 6 years, mostly as a Jack-of-all-trades producer, some of which has involved doing a little production design. (Side note: you can see some of my bathroom/special effect construction skills here.) But this is my first gig as a legit production designer since really immersing myself in design and I really enjoyed it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on my last film set. Last weekend was a great reminder of all the little tips, tricks and must have tools both film crews and designers need to get something done FAST. So I decided to share my Top 10 List of Tools on the Go:

1) A Tape Measure – Preferably one that weighs less than a bag of flour. After working on Jefe’s parents place so much lately, I’ve discovered the necessity for a LIGHTWEIGHT tape measure, especially when tossing it in to your little leather handbag. I picked up this one from Ikea:


2 & 3) Small hammer and Screwdriver – Whether you are hamming your little heart out or putting your fair share of screws in a wall, a solid but portable hammer and screwdriver are a must. I came across this adorable set in the new gift section near the greeting cards at Target.


4) 3M Hooks & Mounting Tape – whether hanging lightweight artwork, or a few quick hooks for a coat & purses in the hall, 3M is really a life saver. I love the real metal options that look just as good as similar hooks which you have to actually screw in to the wall. They are really ideal for renters who want to hang things without the added hassle of patching up holes upon move-out.


5) Painter’s Tape – A roll of this stuff has saved my butt on numerous occasions and has many more uses than the label may advertise. I’ve been known to use it for marking out where I want to hang things on a wall, particularly if you’re trying to hang something evenly beside another piece of art that’s already on the wall. I’ve used it to tape out furniture arrangements on the floor (which may have come from my days stage managing in the theater where we marked all set pieces out for rehearsals). Last week on set we had to dull the reflection on a piece of glass in a picture frame so it wouldn’t reflect the camera and lights; we used a roll of this stuff to protect the frame’s edges while we coated the glass in hairspray (another useful tip!)  So far I’ve only ever used 3M Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape in varying sizes, but I know there are a ton of bloggers, like my favorite Katie Bower, who swear by Frog Tape.


6) iPhone – For better or worse, I am never without mine. When you’re out shopping, it’s the best point of reference. I’ve saved all of my apartment and furniture measurements in the notes section, taken pictures of a label or particular item at home to match it to another in store, and I have all of my shopping lists, budgets and other creative material saved in things like Reminders, Google Drive, and Room Planner. You can use an app to turn it in to a level and in a real pinch, a tape measure (although you only get about 3 inches…)  It’s also great to have on hand to take pictures of an item you may be considering, a certain arrangement of items on display (thank you West Elm for the ideas), or to save vendor information– I’ve been known to photograph business cards or a store’s hours if I’m in a hurry.


7) Hot glue gun – You never know when you’re going to need it. Whether it’s attaching a bird to your latest DIY craft or playing McGyver on a film set, these things always come in handy. Case in point – last weekend we need a prop for one of our actor’s: a very girlie pen. As no one had one on set and we were too short on time for me to run out and purchase one, I took a regular old BIC ballpoint, a strand of fabric ribbon, and a plastic flower I popped off an old faux arrangement and VOILA! Although it may not have been the prettiest thing up close, from far away on camera, it read perfectly.  Unforutnately I’ve had my glue gun so long I have no idea the brand, but Stanley tools are always reliable.


8) Sharpies (multiple colors) – You never know when you’ll need one.  Besides the usual use, they can be used to color in a nick on a piece of furniture, or even create some really quick art.


9) X-acto Knife – Before I learned the error of my ways, I used to need something to help get a clean line when pulling up painter’s tape after I let a paint job dry.  X-Acto knife to the rescue.  It certainly did the trick then but has a million other uses.  Whether it’s trimming a piece of art to fit a frame or cutting a FLOR carpet square to size, it is by far the best way to get the straightest edge.


10) Keep your receipts – This is more of a rule rather than a tool, but it is still essential, no matter what job you are on.  As a rule of thumb, I usually buy more than I need for a job, so I can have options the day of loading in and styling a space.  You never know when you’ll need the perfect knick knack or throw pillow to finish off a look.  So buy more than you think you need, play with the different combinations until you achieve the perfect look and return what you don’t use.


Measure twice, buy once…

With all the projects I’ve been working on lately, I’ve been carrying around quite a few tools:

  • My iPad – Between blogging and designing, it’s super useful to have on the road especially now that I can turn my iPhone in to wifi hotspot.
  • Tape measure – I’ve learned more times than I care to admit the value of measuring twice, cut (or buy) once.  And when it comes to furniture, you do NOT want to have to return something that you can’t easily lift with your own two hands.

But here’s the dilemma: my purse has doubled in weight.  Now, I can’t change the heft of the iPad.  So my 3 lb tape measure it will have to be.

Luckily, while picking up the last few things we needed for Jefe’s parents’ guest room, I found this little guy for $1.29.  Can’t beat that, right?!


That was Sunday.  And then THIS happened on Tuesday, courtesy of Design*Sponge.  It’s a tiny tape measure, looks FABULOUS and is in my new favorite color EMERALD.  Thank God it’s a whopping $80, or I would have dropped what I was doing and ordered one immediately.


Maybe Santa will be extra generous with the tiny stocking gifts this year?